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John Bird joins panel stepping up the fight against rough sleeping

The Big Issue founder teams up with experts, charities and local government to stop people living on the streets within 10 years

Lord John Bird has taken up a seat on the new Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel in a bid to seriously tackle the issue – with the aim of eliminating rough sleeping altogether by 2027.

Homelessness Minister Heather Wheeler invited the Big Issue founder, who has been a cross-bench peer since 2015, to join the panel.

Announced by Housing Secretary Sajid Javid in November, the panel is made up of experts, charities and local government such as Shelter chief executive Polly Neate, Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

The group will draw on their experience to support the upcoming Ministerial Taskforce, which aims to bring together ministers from key departments to provide a cross-government approach to preventing rough sleeping and homelessness.

More than ever, we need to find new ways to ensure that people don’t find themselves homeless, sofa-surfing or rough-sleeping in the first place

The target is to halve rough sleeping inside five years before eradicating it completely inside a decade.

Lord Bird, whose Creditworthiness Assessment Bill is progressing through the House of Lords, said: “More than ever, we need to find new ways to ensure that people don’t find themselves homeless, sofa-surfing or rough-sleeping in the first place.

“I will be using my voice on the panel to call for cross-departmental thinking and action on the most effective preventative measures, as part of a re-energised, all-out effort to tackle the root causes of poverty – and not just its symptoms.”

The panel will meet monthly and will report back to the taskforce in the summer with a series of recommendations to help them move closer to their goal of ending rough sleeping within a decade.

To move closer to reaching that target, the panel will focus on prevention activity to stop people from rough sleeping in the first place as well as programmes and interventions to target both the driving causes of rough sleeping and support vulnerable people at risk of rough sleeping.

Recovery and long-term support to help people maintain sustainable tenancies will also be a key theme while the role of wider society, business, the voluntary sector and the general public play in tackling street culture is also a focus.

Better data and clearer accountability to ensure the right structures are in place at the local and national level will be among areas that the panel will cover.

Panel chair Wheeler said: “We cannot accept rough sleeping as a stubborn problem that will always be with us. That’s why we are providing over £1 billion of funding, supporting those who are homeless and rough sleeping and bringing in the most ambitious legislation in decades that will mean people get the support they need earlier.

“Tackling homelessness is complex, but no one should ever have to sleep rough. The new panel is clear we need to act swiftly to realise our shared determination to help the most vulnerable in society and eliminate rough sleeping for good.”

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